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MPACT Classes Help Farmers Improve Business Skills
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A second-year program is educating farmers in how to make good management and marketing decisions under the freedom granted them by the last Farm Bill.
Managing Profitability in Agriculture in Changing Times, developed by Mississippi State University's agricultural economics department, coordinates with MSU's Extension Service to teach farmers how to improve their operation by focusing on the basics.
Dr. Tom Jones, Extension agricultural economist, said the last Farm Bill allows farmers to plant and grow anything they want without the government's input.
"There's always been a certain amount of risk involved in farming," Jones said. "Under the new Farm Bill, farmers have to be better managers and marketers on their own. MPACT offers farmers the chance to learn skills they need to survive under the changes brought about in their industry."
Farmers need good information to make sound decisions. MPACT provides a foundation for these decisions by offering a short course in record keeping, budgets, risk and crop management, and machinery decisions. Participants will develop a total farm plan based on economic principles and enterprise budgets. Risks of modern agriculture also are discussed.
A financial management segment teaches how to create and analyze balance sheets, and income and cash flow statements to determine how the farm is doing. Two marketing sections cover aspects from cash sales to technical market analysis.
"Records and financial statements tell you everything about your farming operation the cold, hard way with numbers," Jones said. "Farmers often have to make decisions for the next year before the year's crops are in. Hindsight is always 100 percent, but good records, when analyzed, are vital sources of information for farmers as they make these decisions on future events."
Art Smith, DeSoto County Extension agent, said financial planning and analysis can help farmers streamline their operations and make them more cost conscious.
"Some of the government program safety nets won't be with us very much longer so it's imperative we learn how to take advantage of any small, incremental commodity price premiums we can get," Smith said. "You can live or die based on just a few cents per pound or 30 to 40 cents per bushel."
Courses will be taught at eight sites from Nov. 1 through early March. Courses last about 40 hours, varying with the material covered and the time frame. Topic areas are fundamentals of profitable planting decisions, financial management, fundamentals of marketing and advanced marketing. A block of electronic courses is offered in certain situations.
Classes last year brought more than 100 farmers and spouses to locations statewide. Cost is $40 per course, or $120 for all four programs when taught over several weeks. Class size is limited to not more than 20 members to allow for the most participation.
This year's locations are Jones County Junior College, Tunica, Natchez, Yazoo City, North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona, Rolling Fork, Golden Triangle Vo-Tech Center and Hinds Community College.
Contact the local county Extension agent for more details on course times and places.